Bugout! California Part 48 – Dark Journey


“Let’s saddle up,” One Eye shouted as the sun sank below the western hills.

“There’s our cue,” Trevor said, still lying next to Kaylee in their tent. They had slept for a mere half an hour.

“It’s gonna be a long night,” she said.

“I know, but we’re young,” Trevor said. “We’ll handle it fine.”

They got up and left the tent, Trevor zipping it shut. People were converging on the row of vehicles, now stretching almost two hundred yards.

“Man, we got a lot of vehicles,” Angel said, getting beside Trevor and Kaylee. Seth joined them.

“Where’s your uncle?” Seth asked.

“He’s riding with One Eye and Sam,” Kaylee said. “Where’s your girlfriend?”

“Staying here I hope,” Seth said. “See, I’m not going to deny it.”

“Me neither,” Angel said. “I was dreaming about Megan.”

Trevor chuckled. “Don’t you know better than to tell us something like that?”

Kaylee laughed.

“Hey, wait for us,” Kaitlyn said, rushing over with Megan. She got next to Seth and took his hand again. Both of them had on dark jeans and black shirts.

“You’re going?” he asked, freezing for a moment when he saw the war paint on her face. “Whoa.”

She giggled. “There’re many parts of our culture that I love.”

“Me too,” Megan said, taking Angels hand, face beaming behind her war paint.

“You two don’t look nervous at all,” Kaylee said.

“Why should we be nervous?” Kaitlyn asked. “We need to be at our best tonight.”

“That’s a cool rifle,” Seth said, looking at her AK-47. It was accented with colorful beading and scraps of leather.

“Wow, yours is cool too,” Angel said as he looked at it, decorated in a similar way.

“How good are you guys?” Seth asked.

“We’ve been shooting and hunting since we were about five,” Megan said. “We’re gonna make short work of these punks.”

“What’s that you’ve got on the sling?” Kaitlyn asked Seth.

“M60 machine gun,” Seth said. “Kinda heavy, but it’s got it where it counts.”

“Is that all you’re bringing?” Kaitlyn asked.

“No, I’ve got my M-16 and my Winchester .44 mag lever gun in the Jeep.”

“You’ve got a Winchester?” she asked. “Love those. I learned how to shoot with my grandpa’s Model 1892.”

“Nice!” Seth said.

“Can I ride with you?” Kaitlyn asked.

“Of course,” Seth said.

“I want to ride with Angel,” Megan said.

“I’d love it,” Angel said.

Trevor and Kaylee shot each other a glance, smiling.

“We might have to split up when we unhitch the off-roaders,” Seth said to Kaitlyn as they got in their Jeep.

“I know, but that’ll be a couple hours from now,” Kaitlyn said. “Nice time to get to know each other a little better.”

Seth started the Jeep and drove forward as the vehicles in front of him moved.

“This is going to be pretty, I’ll bet,” Seth said. “I love the desert at night.”

“I know, me too. The place we live isn’t that much different from here.”

“Where’s that?” Seth asked.

“Barona Reservation,” she said. “We’re gonna have to rebuild a lot when we go home. The Islamists burned parts of it to the ground.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” Seth said. “You lose any people?”

“We did in the last battle,” she said. “It could have been a lot worse, though. We’ll lose people tonight.”

“I know,” Seth said. “Hope it’s nobody I love.”

“Me too. Let’s not think about that.”

“Okay,” Seth said. “I’m surprised you don’t have a boyfriend. You’re so gorgeous.”

“Stop,” she said, flashing him an embarrassed smile.

He chuckled. “You don’t know, do you?”

“Do you know how handsome you are?” she asked.

Seth was quiet for a moment. “Touché. No, I don’t think of myself as handsome, particularly.”

“I think you’re handsome,” she said. “Kaylee said I was just your type. What did she mean?”

Seth glanced at her, wishing he didn’t have to watch the road.

“Well?” she asked.

“I like women with curves and a pretty face,” he said. “Not unusual, though. Most guys do.”

“So you wouldn’t have been attracted to Megan like you are to me?”

“Oh, I’m attracted to you, am I?”

Kaitlyn giggled. “I know the look you gave me.”

Seth glanced at her again. “Okay, you found me out. You’re one of the most attractive girls I’ve ever seen. I would’ve been after you regardless of the situation.”

“My hips are too big,” she said.

“They’re perfect,” Seth said. “You’ve had boyfriends, I’m sure.”

“Yeah,” she said. “I’m a little too controlling. High maintenance. You’ll have to understand that if we’re gonna work.” She put her hand to her mouth.


“Listen to me. I’m talking as if you’re my boyfriend. I’m sorry.”

“I’m not,” Seth said, glancing at her again.

“I can be a little jealous too,” she said. “That’s killed more than one of my relationships.”

“I can handle those traits,” Seth said. “I tend to gravitate towards women like that. I like their strength.”

“I think jealousy is more of a weakness than a strength. You’ve had girlfriends like that?”

“Yes,” Seth said. “The last one, for instance. Full disclosure, we broke up very recently, although I was done with the relationship for a few months.”

“Where is she?”

“I don’t know,” Seth said with a grim expression. “She left our group when she found out that we attacked Saladin, along with two of my friends and some others. We’re pretty sure they got captured.”

“Oh no,” Kaitlyn said. “How do you know?”

“Long story,” he said.

“It’s a long drive.”

“True,” Seth said. He told her the whole story, from when the trouble first started. She hung on every word, watching him in the darkness.

“Wow,” she said. “That’s crazier than what we’ve been through.”

“What are you talking about?” Seth said. “You had to flee your home, and it got burned down. You barely escaped with your life.”

She was silent for a moment. “You have a point. Do you still want to find Emma?”

“Of course,” he said. “She’s a human being. I don’t want to be with her again. We never worked.”

“She wasn’t your type? Like me?”

Seth chuckled. “She was very pretty in a blonde cheerleader sort of way. She approached me, and I went with it because of her looks and her popularity. We had some good times at first, but we were a disappointment to each other.”

“Maybe I’ll be the same way,” Kaitlyn said.

Seth was quiet for a moment. Then he glanced at her again. “Look, we just met. We barely know each other. That takes time. There is one thing that sets you apart in my mind, though.”

“What’s that?”

“It was my gut reaction the first time I saw you,” Seth said. “You really knocked my socks off. I wish I didn’t have to drive.”


“So I could hold you and look into those gorgeous brown eyes,” he said.

“Oh, God,” she said. “You know how to say the right things to me.”

Seth smiled, glancing at her again, feeling himself tremble. She touched his thigh and noticed.

“You okay?” she asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“You didn’t feel this way with Emma?”

Seth laughed. “This is gonna sound corny as hell. I’ve never had that reaction with anyone before.”

“Good,” she said softly. “Me too.”


“Really,” she said.

“Maybe it’s the time.”

She smiled at him. “Yeah, and maybe it’s us. We’ll see.”

They rode silently for a while, both of their minds racing. Seth could feel her looking at him. It made him feel warm all over.

“What do you do?” she asked.

“I’ve been in school, and working part time,” he said.

“For what?”

“Computer Science,” he said. “But I spent time as a music major too, and as a business major. How about you?”

“Accounting,” she said. “Wasn’t that far from taking the CPA exam when all this crap started.”

“Were you gonna work outside the tribe?”

“Yeah, probably,” she said. “I planned to donate a certain amount of time to the tribe, though.”

“You want to live on the reservation when this is over?”

She chuckled. “I don’t think I’d want to be too far away from it. It’s a nicer lifestyle than most people think.”

“What if we work?”

“Oh, so now you’re thinking ahead, huh?” she asked.

“It’s just conversation.”

“Uh huh,” she said. “We’ll have to talk about that. You can live on the reservation if that’s what we choose to do. Happens all the time. It’s encouraged, in fact.”

“Really? Why?”

“Because of our kids, silly,” she said. “I think we have a little time to think about all of this.”

Seth laughed. “Yeah, I guess we do.”

“You want kids?”

“Hmm,” he said. “Yeah, I think so. I haven’t thought about it much.”

“You didn’t have those kind of conversations with Emma?”

“No,” Seth said. “Not seriously, anyway. I think we both knew it would be a passing thing.”

“Nobody else?” she asked.

“No,” Seth said. “I’m not that old, you know.”

She chuckled. “How old are you?”

“How old are you?” he asked.

“I asked you first.”

“Oh, we’re playing it that way, are we? I’m twenty-four.”

She laughed. “Good grief.”

“Well, how old are you?

“Twenty-four,” she said. “We kinda fit each other like a glove.”

Seth cracked up. “Yeah, except for coming from completely different backgrounds, that is.”

They both laughed. “What is your background, Seth?”

“Northern European,” he said. “British Isles and Scandinavian, mostly.”

“That ought to make for interesting kids.”

“They’d be beautiful,” he said, feeling himself tear up.


Robbie woke up, the hard concrete of the dark tunnel hurting his back. He pulled his phone out and checked the time. Almost ten am.

“You wake,” Jules whispered. “Sleep okay?”

“No, I didn’t fall asleep until after three,” Robbie whispered back. “See any activity?”

“Yeah, twice I see UN thugs in passage way. They not look down here.” He handed the food bag to Robbie, who took out a package of trail mix and handed it back.

Jules’s phone buzzed. He looked at it.

“Text message,” he whispered, holding it up to Robbie.

“UN setting up more chairs on stage, ask me to turn on lights. I do.”

“Mister one,” Robbie whispered. Jules nodded, then typed a reply.

“Pass that food over here,” Tex whispered.

Robbie picked the bag up from next to Jules and passed it over quietly. Then they heard footsteps.

“Shut down that phone,” Tex whispered.

Jules nodded and locked the screen as three UN Peacekeepers walked down the tunnel towards City Hall.

Robbie sighed with relief as the sound of the footsteps faded.

“Hope none of those guys come down here with a flashlight,” Ted whispered.

Sparky was awake now, and nodded in agreement. “Pass me that empty bottle.”

Jules snickered and passed it over.

They sat silently for what seemed like hours. Robbie looked at his phone. Barely an hour had passed.

“Bored, kid?” Tex asked.

“You’re not?”

“Oh, yeah, I’m bored,” Tex said. “But I’m also excited. We’re gonna kill a whole lot of UN slugs tonight, and hopefully get your little lady back.”

Robbie nodded.

Ted woke up and stretched. “What time is it?” he whispered.

“About eleven,” Jules said. “Mister One say stage being set up.”

“Hope nobody goes up there,” Jordan whispered.

“Oh, you wake too,” Jules whispered.

Footsteps approached again, this time coming from the City Hall side of the tunnel. Everybody held their breath as the men walked by.

“Dammit, ten or eleven hours of this crap to go,” Tex whispered.

“Be patient my friend,” Jules whispered. His phone buzzed again. He looked at it, trying to shield so light didn’t escape. “Ivan text.” He read it silently.

“What’s going on, partner?” Tex asked.

“Big attack tonight to the east,” Jules whispered. “Ivan worried.”

“He’s always worried,” Sparky whispered. “Who?”

“You remember Ji-Ho? Sam?”

“No way,” Ted whispered. “Wish those two were here.”

“We be fine,” Jules said. “They attack supply depot in Coachella Valley.”

“Quiet,” Sparky whispered as another set of footsteps approached. This time it was a larger group. Five UN Peacekeepers, laughing and joking with each other as they walked towards the police station.

Robbie gritted his teeth.

“What, kid?” Sparky.

“I was just wondering how many of those creeps raped my girlfriend,” Robbie whispered.

“Anger good, but control,” Jules whispered, shooting him a sidelong glance.

Robbie nodded, trying to push the hatred down to a reasonable level. It wasn’t easy.

They sat silently for another long period of time, all of them in their own minds. Then Jules grabbed his phone.

“Text,” he said, reading it quickly and locking the screen. He looked at Sparky and Tex, grinning.

“What?” Sparky whispered.

“This gonna work,” Jules whispered.

Tex and Sparky looked at him. He chuckled.

“What, dammit?” Sparky asked.

“UN Thug come into control room, talk to Mister One about change to lighting and sound. They follow instruction. UN Thug tell Mister One and Mister Two they do good job, then leave.”

Tex chuckled softly. Sparky shook his head, a grin forcing its way onto his face.


One Eye drove the Jeep Unlimited, Ji-Ho riding shotgun, Sam and Connie in the back.

“What chances?” Ji-Ho asked.

“If we can surprise them, and if they don’t start flinging willie pete up at us, probably sixty percent,” One Eye said.

“That low?” Connie asked, her voice wavering.

“For a total victory, that’s pretty good,” Sam said, putting his hand on her thigh.

“This is scary,” she said.

“It war,” Ji-Ho said. “Very unpredictable.”

“Based on those pictures of their box canyon, I think our chances are a little better than that,” Sam said. “We’ve got willie pete too, you know. We can turn that canyon into a lake of fire.”

“Yes, but we must sight mortars in. They should have setup now,” Ji-Ho said.

“As soon as we take care of the sentries, we need to open up on the mortar positions with the M60s and the BARs,” Sam said.

“We toss grenades too,” Ji-Ho said. “Boom.”

“How close can we drive?” Connie asked.

“There’s a ridge about three-hundred yards away from the canyon,” One Eye said. “We’ll park back there and send the bow and arrow team in, along with several people armed with grenades.

“Wish we had laser target designators and air cover,” Sam said.

One Eye laughed. “Yeah, that would be nice.”

“Too bad drone blow up,” Ji-Ho said. “That be nice too.”

“You didn’t waste that,” Sam said. “You almost got Saladin. That was worth a try.”

“He duck,” Ji-Ho said.

One Eye snickered. “Wonder if he crapped his pants when he knew what you were about to do?”

“He professional,” Ji-Ho said. “He hunting me now. Glad captured people didn’t hear where we come.”

“Captured people?” Connie asked.

“Most of Ji-Ho’s group took off when they found out he tried to take out Saladin,” Sam said. “They got captured and gave up his position at the RV Park in Temecula. The enemy attacked.”

“They try to attack,” Ji-Ho said. “Cut in half with mini-gun.”

“Wish I could’ve seen that,” One Eye said. “Hell, I wish we could bring the battle wagon around.”

“Where is it?” Connie asked.

“We park in clearing, before road bad,” Ji-Ho said. “It live to fight another day.”

“The road is getting worse,” Sam said.

“You ain’t seen nothing yet,” One Eye said. “We’ll have to unhitch the off-roaders before too long.”

“Listen,” Sam said. “Sounds like a chopper.”

“Crap,” One Eye said, turning off his headlights. He fished his phone out of his pocket and handed it to Ji-Ho. “Send text to the top group. Off with the lights.”

“Hope we weren’t too late,” Connie whispered.

“Done,” Ji-Ho said. Lights behind them went out.

“See it?” One Eye asked.

“Looking out the side windows,” Sam said. “Nope. It’s black outside, though. Very little moonlight.”

“That good,” Ji-Ho said.

“The sound is going away,” Connie said. “Listen.”

Sam rolled down the window and stuck his chest out, looking to the rear. “It’s not coming this way. I see it now, barely. It’s military. Probably out of San Diego.”

“Free zone,” One Eye said, looking relieved. “They’re on our side, by the way.”

“I’ve heard rumors to that effect,” Sam said.

“Me too,” Ji-Ho said.

They hit a hard bump. “Dammit,” One Eye said. “Think it’s safe to turn the lights back on?”

“Yeah,” Sam said. “Can’t even see the choppers anymore.”

One Eye turned his headlights back on, then looked over at Ji-Ho. “Spread the word, man.”

“I do,” Ji-Ho said, typing on One Eye’s phone.

“What happens after this battle?” Connie asked.

“We go home and plan the next attack,” One Eye said.

“Where’s home?” Connie asked. “Camp?”

“Yes, for now,” One Eye said.

“We don’t know the next target, do we?” Sam asked.

“No,” One Eye said. “I was in some discussions about a month ago. I know some of the possibilities.”

“What they?” Ji-Ho asked.

“Barstow,” One Eye said. “Originally Blythe, but they moved that depot here.”

“Oh, really? Wonder why?” Connie asked.

“Less remote, probably,” One Eye said. “After we destroy this one, they might try to set that one up again.”

“Where else?” Sam asked.

“Buttonwillow,” One Eye said.

“Where hell that?” Ji-Ho asked.

“West of Bakersfield,” Connie said. “I’ve been there. It’s not nice. On I-5, so it’s probably a good place for a depot.”

“Why did you go there?” Sam asked.

“College friend,” she said. “Grew up there. Always said it was a nice place to be from.

“You plan return to reservation?” Ji-Ho asked.

“Of course,” One Eye said. “We’ll have to rebuild quite a bit.”

“I wonder what happened to our RV Park?” Connie said, a faraway look in her eyes.

“We’ll get it back someday, honey,” Sam said.

“If we survive,” she said. “We might not.”

“Don’t dwell on that,” One Eye said. “Bad before battle.”

“I’ll try,” Connie said. “It’s hard.”

“I know, honey,” Sam said.

“Hey, One Eye, you see my boys and your maidens?” Ji-Ho asked, grinning.

One Eye snickered. “Kaitlyn and Megan. Hope they aren’t behaving too badly.”

“They’re lovely girls,” Connie said. “So beautiful.”

“I talked sternly to them before you guys arrived,” One Eye said to Ji-Ho. Then he chuckled. “I’m not worried. If your boys aren’t worthy, they won’t last long with either of them.”

“They worthy,” Ji-Ho said. “We fight together. They men. Warriors in own right.”

“Good,” One Eye said. “Time to unhitch the off-roaders. We’re coming up to the dry creek. Can’t tow over that mess.”

He slowed to a stop.

To be continued…


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